Southport: the trouble with beavers
NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 6, 2013 —
City’s trapper has so far caught five of the pesky mammals
By Steve Marschke
“It comes in waves,” reports Dena Kirtley, the City of West Sacramento’s urban forest manager. “It has probably been about three years.”
But now, they’re back:
“About a month ago, one of my crew noticed some trees that he thought were chopped down with an axe. On further inspection, we discovered it had been beavers.”
The animals have been active “for probably six or eight weeks” in the Bridgeway Lakes area of Southport, chopping down trees. Their preferred species is willow. The animals – perhaps a family – probably came in from the Sacramento River.
“There’s a canal that belongs to Reclamation District 900, just east of Otis Road, south of Marshall,” said Kirtley, who is managing the city’s response. “That’s pretty much where Bridgeway Lakes begins. That canal runs under the road.”
“They’ve taken out several trees at Cherokee in Bridgeway Lakes, and gone around the corner behind some houses and taken out some more.”
Why do the beavers want to gnaw down willow trees in particular?
“They eat the bark and leaves off the portion that falls into the lake,” answered Kirtley. “Their intent is to make the trees reachable so they can get to the bark and leaves.”
The felled trees aren’t immediately being removed by the city.
“We leave the trees where they are, so the beavers don’t down more trees,” said Kirtley.
You might call that an official policy of “Leave it to Beaver.”
If the animals can’t get at willow trees, they will settle for other species, like live oak, she added.
How many animals are there?
“We’re hoping less than 10,” she said. “They move in from the river through the ag canals. It’s like a little highway.”
So far, there has been no problem with beaver dams as a threat to drainage.
The city’s response to the beaver infestation was to show the state Department of Fish and Game that it was taking adequate tree-protection measures, and then get a permit to hire a trapper. Parks workers have tried to protect over 100 area trees with chicken wire – a questionable strategy, allowed Kirtley, because the beavers can always just “move on down the line” to unprotected trees.
A trapper has thus far caught five of the animals. When pressed, Kirtley admitted delicately that the animals are not live-caught. They’re killed by the traps.
“It’s illegal to transport them,” she said. “Nobody else wants them. They would just be somebody else’s problem, and we are in an urban area. It’s a delicate subject. I’ve had people ask me what happens to the beavers.”
Kirtley said the animals can build aquatic lodges, but they also burrow into riverbanks – and “we think we found one of their nests.” The trapping doesn’t seem to be over.
The good news is that the downed trees will probably rise again.
“Once we think we’ve alleviated the beaver problem, we will remove the felled trees,” said Kirtley. “We’ll make a nice, clean cut below the damage, and the trees will re-sprout and we’ll have new trees.”
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